Celtics-Cavs preview: Taking down LeBron? Just another challenge for C's

Celtics-Cavs preview: Taking down LeBron? Just another challenge for C's

BOSTON – We have seen our share of dynasties through the years in the NBA.

But leading two franchises in three different stints to the Conference finals or NBA Finals eight years in a row is beyond impressive.

It’s downright unfathomable in this era with 30 NBA teams and with that a greater opportunity for parity to exist.

Still, that is the world that LeBron James has created. It's one where you can understand why some talented teams (Toronto) simply wilt upon encountering James and his teammates or push him to the brink of season-ending defeat (Indiana), only for James to make all the plays when the game matters most to keep his team’s season alive.

However, the mental makeup of this Celtics team is different than any other team in the league, which is why the C's confidence coming into Game 1 of this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers today at TD Garden could not be much higher than it is now.

This is the same Celtics team that rallied from 26 points down in the second half to beat Houston, the same team that has stolen more than their share of victories when all indicators pointed toward defeat.

It breeds not only a tough-as-nails mindset but also a level of confidence few teams that have faced James bring to the table this time of year.

That’s because while so much attention is focused on what to do with James, the Celtics have a bigger, better, more locked-in focus that centers around one thing only: beat the Cavs.

It may sound simple, but we’ve seen a number of teams clearly spend a ton of time obsessing over how to deal with James rather than take a bigger picture perspective and see what it would take to eliminate the Cavs.

The Celtics' Jaylen Brown believes that as much as his team's play will have a positive impact on the series, he also believes the Boston proven track record of handling basketball adversity will bode well for them.

“This team is the most mentally tough team I’ve ever been on,” Brown said. “We don’t back down from nobody. We have a lot of guys who have nothing to lose. When you have a team like that, that doesn’t back down from nobody and they’re tough and tough-minded, you can do anything.”

And in their mind, that means doing the seemingly unthinkable – eliminating LeBron James and the Cavs.

Several Boston players acknowledged that having so many folks doubt their ability to move on from one round to another – despite being the higher seed in both their first- and second-round series, has only made them dig their heels in deeper and focus more on proving their naysayers wrong.

“We weren’t going to lay down for nobody, no matter who was counting us out,” said guard Terry Rozier. “We weren’t going to just let teams come in and punk us. We were the number two seed for a reason. With injuries, without injuries, we finished number two seed, so we were doing something great all season.

Rozier added, “We’d rather y’all count us out. We don’t want nobody on our side now that we’re doing good. We play better when our backs are against the wall.”



Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Those pesky Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around even before Yahoo's Chris Mannix mentioned the Celtics were "scared" of Kyrie Irving heading there next summer. They picked up steam this week with another report of The Big Apple as a destination for Irving and Jimmy Butler to join forces.

Now, ESPN's NBA Forecast Panel gives the Knicks a slight edge over the Celtics to land Irving, 46.9 percent to  43.8 percent.

Here's part of the panel's explanation on ESPN's "The Jump": 

It would take some salary-cap machinations for New York to lure Irving to play close to where he grew up in West Orange, N.J. They would likely have to risk losing Kristaps Porzingis in free agency next summer by not giving him a big-money extension this season. 

There's also a potential pursuit of Kevin Durant in free agency next summer as the Knicks - playoff-less since 2013 and title-less for 45 years - make another attempt to spend their way back to relevance. 

Irving has made it clear he's not going to cost himself millions by signing an extension with the C's this season ("Contractually, financially, it just doesn’t make any sense”) and is headed to free agency, so, with training camp more than a month away, get used to a season full of questions about his future. And expect the Knicks speculation to heat up before the four C's-Knicks games (Oct. 20 and Feb. 6 in New York and Nov. 21 and Dec. 6 in Boston). 


Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge was busy on Twitter late last night poking a little fun at a couple of his players.

Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, wondered where the defense was in a video of "Scary" Terry Rozier playing in a pickup game with Wizards guard John Wall and other NBAers. 

A little good-natured payback for Rozier's FaceTime interruption of Ainge's drafting of Robert Williams back in June?

A few minutes before his Rozier tweet, Ainge saw a video tweeted by Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton of Jaylen Brown showing his skills on the piano at the Berkeley campus' Sproul Plaza. Brown spent a year at Cal before being drafted by Boston in 2016.

Ainge couldn't resist a jab at Brown's ball-handling skills. 

So, Celtics players, post those Twitter videos at your own risk because the boss is watching.